A new .. old.. and repeated story..its heroes are the children and youth of the village of Dest El-Ashraf, Kom Hamada province, Beheira governorate.
Scene one: children and youth in the age of flowers come out every day to work in the farms in Nubaria. They are shipped in pickup trucks to the large farms yearning to manpower to plant and harvest them. The children are the tool which irrigates the land of the farms. The land drinks from their childhood, their fragile bodies, and their innocent eyes.
Scene two: children at the age of growth, starting from the age of seven, kneeling on the ground removing grass, harvesting crop or sowing seeds over the long working hours, which are no less than 10 hours, that might or might not, be divided by a half hour to rest and eat poor food (cheese, tomato, or mashed potatoes in the best of cases). During the long work day under the harsh hot sun or bitter cold, these (working) children are not allowed to speak, look around or be lazy at work. A child who is lazy is beaten by a hose and humiliated and insulted with the most brutal words, particularly the girls, who are subjected to humiliation and obscene words. It seems as if we are back to the era of slaves, and children have become slaves to the landlord, forced to work with every drop of blood in his land in exchange for a handful of pounds which are not enough for the misery and hardship of the long day. There is no place here to talk about employment contracts, health and social insurance, a meal, a certain number of working hours, or definite wages.
Scene three: finishing work and being shipped once more in the same pickup trucks to return to their homes, the faces of the children bear the signs of fatigue and tiredness and secret joy. Finishing work and going home to sit with the family and eat some dinner, is like returning from death to life again.
Scene four: the pickup truck which is loaded with twenty two innocent flowers takes the road of Kom Hamada, Badr province. That narrow road connects the villages of Kom Hamada and the province of Badr. Then suddenly two vehicles collide with each other on the narrow road and one of them, the one which is loaded with children, falls in the Nubariya canal, and the canal water is contaminated with the blood of the children.. And no one in the village knows about the accident except after several hours.
Scene five: the pickup truck falls with its carriage of children, and screams rise calling for help. People hurry to rescue them and can actually get eight of them out of the water.. but the rest of the children drown.
Scene six: the whole village of Dest El-Ashraf go to the site of the accident to check on their children, only to find that 14 children and young people have drowned and their bodies can not be found… They continue searching for the bodies of their children for two days, sitting next to the Nubariya canal, until they were able to extract the bodies out of the water.
Scene seven: wailing, grief and tears are falling in most of the houses of the village of Dest El-Ashraf.
Scene eight: newspapers publish the incident .. and officials say that the government would pay three thousand pounds for the family of the wounded, and five thousand pounds for the family of the deceased ….
After the incident the people are surprised that the amounts paid are less than what the newspapers reported, and of course they do not care to ask why, as no amount of money can compensate the family of a deceased child.
Scene nine (the last scene): security forces siege the village and construct a security barrier around the village preventing satellite channels from covering the incident and chasing photographers in the side streets of the village .. People around the world read about the incident in the newspapers and ignore it, as they have become costumed to reading such news about their villages and their children!!.
Our story ends with the local council of Beheira governorate, after the recurrence of incidents, submitting a memorandum to widen the road. The governor transferred the memorandum to the Roads and Bridges Body to estimate a budget to widen the road. So far the Roads and Bridges Body did not send the budget to widen the road, and so the road has not been developed until now … which means the recurrence of new, old and repeated incidents.
The LCHR presents the complaints of the residents of the village of Dest El-Ashraf to the officials, demanding that the Minister of Transport and Communications and the Governor of Beheira governorate, quickly intervene and widen the death road to protect the lives of children, women and young farm workers from continuing to be killed in the same manner and the same way.
It also demands the governor and Minister of Solidarity and the National Council for Maternity and Childhood to investigate in the amounts that were not paid to the families of deceased and injured victims, compensate the families, and provide decent job opportunities, in order to stop child labor in Kom Hamada. In the end we wish that the people of the village overcome their grief and for the deceased to go to heaven and for our society our sincere condolences.
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